As the host of Travel Channel’s “Expedition Unknown,” Josh Gates spent nearly 220 days last year in some of the most remote places on earth, seeking the true stories behind legends like Robin Hood and the kingdom of Shangri-La. Armed with a camera and a really, really cold beer, he can find equilibrium most anywhere.
When did you first realize you had an urge to travel?
I think I realized it when I was a little kid. My father, who’s retired now, was a deep-sea diver, so he was always coming back from these exotic ports of call. And I was already obsessed with “The Goonies” and “Indiana Jones.”
What’s the link between traveling and mystery?
Just the act of traveling involves going outside our comfort zone, getting outside of what you know. On the show, we’re tracking down some of the greatest legends in the world—King Arthur, Genghis Khan’s tomb—by their nature, they involve getting to some difficult and uncharted places.
What’s the most remote place you’ve been?
Antarctica. We went by sailboat to the bottom of South America. First you have to get all the way down to the tip of South America, which is a trip in itself, then you sail for days on the open sea never seeing land. I don’t think it gets much more remote than that.
Is there any place you would absolutely never go back to?
I don’t think there’s anywhere I would never go back to. I’ve had plenty of awful experiences, but when the situations are really tough, those are the best trips. I’m a real believer that not all travel should be fun and not all travel should be easy.
What is still left for you to explore?
Recently, I went to Poland for the very first time and that was my hundredth country that I’ve visited. Even with all the traveling I’ve been so fortunate to do, I’ve only been to half the countries in the world. For me, it’s an endless list. I really want to go to the Maldives before they sink, and the Seychelles. I’d love to go to Sri Lanka and I’d love to go to a lot of islands in the Pacific that I haven’t seen. I’ve been lucky enough to go to China a couple of times, but when you look at a map and realize how big a country like that is, you’re just scratching the surface of a place.
Are you the world’s most jet-lagged person?
I think I may have beaten jet lag; if you travel enough, eventually your body just gives up and sleeps whenever you want it to. There are a few tricks to it: One of the best tricks for jet lag is to get outside as soon as you land. The worst thing you can do is land and get inside a structure like a hotel so your body doesn’t know whether it’s day or night.
What’s always in your bag?
I never leave for a trip without packing a camera, a Moleskin notebook and a good pen. Even though I’m not great at it, journaling when you travel is a way more valuable thing to do than taking pictures. You can look back at a journal from a trip a few years later, and even if it’s just scribbles, it’s a lot more vivid than a photo.
Have you discovered any great beers abroad?
We do quite a lot of drinking out here on the road. … The most important criteria for me when it comes to beer is refreshment. I’m usually climbing out from a crumbling desert ruin, so I’m looking for a beer that’s ice cold, crisp and refreshing. We were just in the Dominican Republic, and that’s a country that totally gets cold beer; if you’re in Santo Domingo and you order a Bohemia or a Presidente, it comes out like it was just taken out of Han Solo’s freezer.
What have you learned from drinking around the world?
“Expedition Unknown” is really about getting to the heart of some of the world’s greatest legends and mysteries, and sometimes the way that we do that is rappelling down some creepy mine shaft. And sometimes the best way to do it is over a beer. People want to cook food and serve drinks to others and share stories. That’s central to every culture.
Catch the second season of Travel Channel’s “Expedition Unknown” Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.